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I am currently writing to you from a hand-me-down Sony Vaio laptop with a broken touchpad.  Rather than use the touchpad, I have been employing a mouse that was thrown out at my job.  Today, the left mouse button broke.  I am now using the right button as the primary button, and foregoing the use of the right-click menu.  I work full-time as a product designer for a home automation company.  I also study Computer Engineering at a public university part-time.  When I’m not studying or working, I am renovating my home, working on various projects, or dreaming up projects that I have no hope of ever getting around to.  That is what I hope to cover in this blog.

I don’t believe in doing everything yourself.  I believe that sometimes it is better to hire an expert (or, at least have a friend who is an expert.)  Despite myself, I still end up doing a lot of things the hard way.  Fortunately, that’s the best way for me to learn.  I’m fortunate enough to have had several employers willing to teach me (or allow me to learn) on the job.  I am learning product design in this way.  I learned a little bit about manufacturing engineering in a previous job.  And, at school, I am learning computer and electrical engineering.  However, I am far from an expert in any of these fields.  I am the Jack of all trades, and the master of none.  That said, another great way to learn is to observe other people’s mistakes.  And, trust me, I have made PLENTY of mistakes.  I expect to make many more.  I also hope to document them here, such that someone else might avoid making them.

The offending freebie mouse.
The offending freebie mouse.

As I mentioned earlier, all of my computer mice are broken in one way or another.  I’m considering doing something wacky as a way to remedy this.  Rather than do the reasonable thing and spend $10 on a replacement, I have an MSP430 starter kit laying around collecting dust.  I also have access to two kinds of high-end 3D printers, as well as a well-equipped machine shop.  Perhaps a good first project would be to homebrew a mouse?

I also (try) to do some 3D CAD work and video editing on this old Vaio.  It’s a slow, frustrating process.  I also dabble in developing Android apps, and the IDEs for doing so are becoming so complex that this machine chokes on them.  Being a student, homeowner, pet parent, husband, and generally financially responsible guy, I’m not in a great position to go out and acquire a true CAD/video editing/projecting managing/Android emulating machine.  So, another project I would like to cover at some point is building a sub-$400 computer that CAN actually do those things. (The $400 would not include the monitor, keyboard, mouse, or other desired peripherals.)  I think it’s totally attainable…  Once I have the cash.

The first of 8 doors.
The first of 8 doors.

My wife and I are renovating our home.  We bought it as a foreclosure back in 2009.  It’s about 35 years old, as were most of the finishes and things in it when we bought it.  We have since gutted it.  I learned how to remove and replace walls, toilets, sinks, counters,appliances, and doors in the process.  Speaking of which, I am still working on replacing the doors.  I have 5 of 8 completed.  I may document the process at some point and post it here.  I chose the WORST POSSIBLE WAY to do it.  So, I don’t know how much it could benefit anyone.  In short, we were so strapped for cash at the time we wanted to purchase the materials that I bought low-grade lumber for the jambs and trim.  It’s full of knots and has a horrible finish.  HOWEVER, the mantel that was in place when we moved in has a “saw-cut” finish for that wonderful rustic look.  (I use italics here for sarcastic emphasis.)  So, I’m imagining that the rough look of the wood used in the door trim and baseboards will match.  In this process, I have acquired a few new tools and also learned that I hate battery powered Dremel Tools for several reasons.  Anyway, that is a future blog post.

Being a Computer Engineering student and product designer, I do a lot of math.  I can’t claim to do it well all of the time, but it’s a subject that interests me.  I have been slowly introducing myself to the wonderful world of Android programming through a project involving a math-related app.  I’m reluctant to divulge too much information about it here, simply because I think the concept has yet to be implemented by anyone.  The problem is that I do not have sufficient knowledge (and perhaps not sufficient skill) to pull it off right now.  Furthermore, the project merges two conflicting worlds:  Algebra and Tablet Computing.  From my perspective, tablets are the least-useful computing tools on the market.  So, when I think of apps, I think of apps that would help me do the things I do often.  It just so happens that I’m basically doing algebra all the god damn time.  Anyway, as the project progresses, I would love to cover it here.

There are plenty of other things to cover.  I’m guessing that many of them will never be started.  And, of those that do get started, many of those will never be completed.  Still, whatever I learn along the way I hope to share with anyone who is interested.

So, since this is where everything begins, I’ve labeled this post as the origin.

Problem Solving through Engineering and Design